Saturday, February 6, 2010

February: Catch and Release Farewell

FEB 5: This was my final trip to Bennett Spring State Park to fish the 2010 winter catch and released season. The day was overcastted with a light snow falling through out the day. The mild wind blew over the dam and up stream. There was not much acumination of snow on the ground. The stream was at normal levels with some turbidity to the water. The trout were actively taking caddis, midges, mayflies and an occasional snowflake. Only a few fishermen were in the park with most of the fishermen below the dam. I started just above the dam and worked my way up stream in zone 1 with a #20 BWO, fishing with little success. After some time, I started to look for the insects on the surface. The black caddis were skittering across the open water and occasionally taken by a trout. I made a switch to a caddis pattern and caught a few trout. Later in the day, switched back to the BWO and managed to fool trout along the cover near the aquatic plants. I released a dozen with a few trout near sixteen inches. The eagle made three passes overhead late in the afternoon. I stopped at the hatchery office and had a good visit with Mike Mitchell. Mike discussed the renovation project for the hatchery in the near future. He will be a guest speaker at the May MTFA meeting. It will be an outstanding program, mark it on your calendar.

FEB 18: I returned to Bennett Spring S.P. for the afternoon and stayed for a meeting that evening. Since the waters are closed until March 1st, I took a camera and hoped to find an eagle perched in a tree. There was a great hatch of insects with the mayflies returning as spinners, depositing eggs. The eagles were not in sight this after noon. Mike Mitchell invited me to their annual meeting with the community. I took notes with the information to follow:

Bennett Spring Trout Park
Pre-season meeting
Sand Spring Resort
Thursday, Feb 18, 2010 7 pm

Mike Mitchell MDC Hatchery Manager

Mike welcomed the guest with approximately 75 people in attendance. The first item for discussion was opening day. The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) will stock 2.25 fish per estimated tag purchased. Past years, the number was 2.0 trout. The size of the average trout will decrease from 12.5 inches to 12.0 inches due the decease funding for trout food. It probably will not be significant for the anglers. There are no rules changes for 2010 for the state parks and tag prices will not increase for 2010. The opening day dignitaries will be Lt. Governor Peter Kinder. Gov. Jay Nixon will attend Montauk for opening day. Jerry and Brenda Miller will sound the opening day siren. They have sold their business, but have been important to the Bennett Spring Community for 24 years. Jerry is scheduled for surgery but will be healthy enough for March 1st. The estimated attendance for this Monday opening day is 2340 tags.

Renovation project for the hatchery: Six years ago a trout management plan was worked out in Jefferson City. I recall Mike Kruse coming to our club explaining the plan and providing some of the long-term details and vision for the future. One of the long-term plans was to improve and increase production of trout in our hatcheries. Some of the work has already been completed, noted the Shepherd of the Hills hatchery in Branson. Montauk has made improvements for dealing with possible flooding in the hatchery and installed oxygen tanks to sustain the trout during crisis events.

The spring, the fourth largest in Missouri, has a daily output of 100 million gallons of water, rising out of a narrow cave. The flow is more than adequate to raise trout. The current facility is old and will need some major repairs. In addition, the basement was found to be unsafe. There was some consideration to renovate the old build but financial wisdom decided to build a new facility. The new building will be 4000 square feet on the grounds near the current concrete raceways. The projected cost of the project is estimated to be 2 million dollars. The bids closed 2/18/10 with 30 contractors bidding for the job. The projected number of trout per year will go from 300,000 (current target) to 700,000. It was proposed Bennett Spring Hatchery would provide Meramec with their supply of trout. The funds will come from the MDC and after the completion of the project, a 75% reimbursement from the Sport Fish Restoration funds, which are federal dollars.

Kid’s Fishing Day will be May 1, 2010. The recent attendance is near 800 kids with 1200 a few years ago for an all time high. Some of the events will be a touch tank, stream table, fly tying, fish cleaning demonstration, casting simulator shooting trailer and the first fish award. Free fishing weekend will be June 12-13, 2010 and the Catch and Release Season begins November 12, 2010. Mike provided a power point presentation and did an outstanding job.

J.D. Muschany DNR Park Supervisor

The park and the Department of Natural Resources have taken significant cuts with the recent budget cut backs in Jefferson City. Three staff members have been laid off, two people have lost their positions and one transferred to another location. There will be no additional funding for seasonal jobs. If mowers or other equipment break down this summer, there may not be funds to make repairs. There was a question about some of the potholes in the park. J.D. said they would be fixed but waiting for approval from Jefferson City and FEMA funds. The concession bid for the park store is closed with three people bidding for the 2011 contract. As of this meeting, there has been no announcement for the winning bidder. J.D. mentioned a group meeting at the park every Wednesday to help with task and volunteer their time with projects in the park.

Craig Fuller MDC biologist

Craig mentioned he had some staff reductions with increased area responsibility. He now covers Lake Pomme de Terre. There was significant discussion of the Niangua River and the brown trout population. 2010 looks good for the brown trout with the highest samplings for fourteen years. Craig went on to explain some for the changes with numbers of brown trout stocked and reduction in legal lengths of brown trout which are now fifteen inches down from eighteen inches. This reduction was due to insignificant habitat for larger trout. There will be no brown trout plantings in zone 1 for 2010; there have been some production problems coming from the Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery, which supplies the brown trout. We will hear more of this from Clint Hale, who will speak to the club in March.

In December, a sixty-foot shovel took out 153 cubic yards of gravel from the area above the dam. The project to replace concrete in front of the hatchery building has been delayed a year due to cut backs. There was a question about replacing gravel above the dam along the island, which has eroded from recent high water. Craig said he would look at it. There were other comments of more gravel removal below the stone bridge. Craig thought there was too much bedrock. Another comment about the riprap stones moving away from the Whistle Bridge and down stream; it will require some heavy equipment to replace the stone. It may be a project for next year.

Final speaker, District Supervisor R.A. Daniels

The enforcement in his area did not take a hit. Other areas in the state did lose a few officers. A question of riggings and droppers from several fishermen; it was agreed; up to three droppers of single hooks would be within the law. There was a discussion how the droppers were tied on a leader and concluded any set-up being acceptable.

The meeting ended at 9 PM. There was good information and well attended.

For more information:

My next trip will be Bull Shoals....